An unsung explorer and an unforgiving land :: Ludwig Becker

1 Posted by - 8 January 2015 - Feature stories

In the latest issue of Inside History magazine, Dr John Hayman takes a look at Ludwig Becker, the forgotten artist and scientist of the Burke and Wills expedition.

Ludwig Becker

Portrait of Ludwig Becker, taken in 1856. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Ludwig Becker migrated to Tasmania from Germany in 1851, and was an artist and trained naturalist. His life, achievements, and contribution to the expedition tend to be overshadowed by the overall brutal struggle for survival, on what Hayman describes as an “ill fated dash to cross the continent”.

Despite his professional capacities, his role as naturalist, geologist, and artist of the expedition seemed to be undermined – he and his friend and fellow German nationalist and medic, Herman Beckler, were made to do strenuous, monotonous tasks. Under the command of William Wright, Becker and the Supply Party were instructed to wait at Menindee on the Darling River. Being in the Supply Party and looking after camels wasn’t exactly what Becker had expected when he joined the Burke and Wills’ adventure. In spite of this, he still managed to paint some beautiful watercolours and observe the different flora and fauna they came across.

 

Ludwig Becker's last painting before he died - Border of the Mud Desert near Desolation Camp, 1861. Courtesy State Library of Victoria, ID H16486

Ludwig Becker’s last painting before he died – Border of the Mud Desert near Desolation Camp, 1861. Courtesy State Library of Victoria, ID H16486

When the group set out to join the Rear Party at Cooper Creek, things inevitably took a turn for the worse. Inevitable, because these men were taking on a landscape that was much harsher and unforgiving than they had predicted.

What was the fate of Ludwig Becker? In this feature for Inside History magazine, Dr Hayman questions the validity of the expedition, the conditions in which these men were made to live in, and the nature of such an adventure that came at the expense and demise of some great and talented men.

Read more and order a copy of issue 26 today!

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